A national survey suggested that Americans are using alcohol to cope with COVID-19, including a 42 percent hike in beer sales and 66 percent rise in wine sales in one recent week.
However, area dealers had different takes about it.
“Every time (Gov.) Tom Wolf made a statement, everyone panicked,” said Cathy Strong, owner of Duquesne Beer Distributors in Indiana. “Now it is just normal, and that normal is slow.”
Since March 17, Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores have been ordered closed by the governor.
Since March 18, all retail licensees, clubs, permittees and producers have been ordered to cease the sale of food and alcohol for on-premises consumption, though sales to go are still permitted, as are hotel sales of food and alcohol for consumption in a private room.
“It’s pretty good, not bad,” said Bob Gresko, manager of Clymer Beverage.
However, he added, “it hurts without the bars.”
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is not limiting distributors’ operations, but beer distributors have been “strongly encouraged” by PLCB “to employ social distancing best practices and avoid public gatherings of 10 or more people.”
“We are doing well,” said Doug Jack, owner of Blairsville Beverage.
However, he said sales are “about the same” as they had been before the COVID-19 crisis, adding, “the weather is getting nicer, too. That helps.”
In addition to distributors, beer can be found in some supermarkets and convenience stores.
“We don’t comment on the sales of specific stores or categories, but I can tell you we are seeing an increase in beer and wine purchases and expect this to continue,” said Christopher Brand, director of communications and social impact for The Giant Company in Carlisle, parent company of Martin’s supermarket in White Township. “As a result of high demand, it’s possible that certain items may be out of stock and we continue to work on restocking our assortment as quickly as possible.”
The crisis has had its impact on distributors’ operations, including one just over the Armstrong County line.
“Due to COVID-19, we have decided to postpone the opening date of our new facility until further notice,” Shannock Valley Beer Distributor in Yatesboro posted this week on Facebook.
“We are currently taking all the precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers, and we remain committed to providing quality customer service to the community,” the distributor posted. “We will continue to operate under normal business hours at our current location. Thank you!”
In Indiana, Holiday Beverage posted plans this week for expanded hours on Fridays and Saturdays and a limited delivery schedule between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday — with caveats one might expect during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The truck will leave once per hour, every hour during the delivery time,” Holiday Beverage posted on Facebook. “The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, with all deliveries being at our discretion. With a card payment, this allows limited person-to-person interaction for those with health concerns (paying customer must be present to accept alcoholic delivery).”
The state has no plans to reopen its brick-and-mortar liquor stores during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, however, limited online sales resumed in Pennsylvania.
The state’s website is accepting a “controlled number” of daily orders but plans to expand as it develops more capacity. Buyers will be limited to six bottles per order from a list of about 1,000 wine and spirits products, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced.
Liquor board chairman Tim Holden said he expects the site to be overwhelmed with traffic initially and requested patience.
Overall, sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55 percent in the week ending March 21, according to the Nielsen market research firm. In addition to increased wine and beer sales, Nielsen said online sales far outpaced in-store sales.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.